by Ron Higgins
– Columnist —
George Lynch has re-joined Dokken! Well, sort of. George joins fellow Dokken band mates Jeff Pilson and “Wild” Mick Brown to form a project known as T&N. Drummer extraordinaire Brian Tichy participates as well. Originally, it was going to be called Tooth and Nail after Dokken’s seminal Platinum-selling second album of the same name. However, due to legal conflicts with the record label of the same name, they had to settle on the shorter acronym. So the question is: Does this album live up to its name? Not quite. But it’s not bad either.
This project actually began out of the remnants of another failed Dokken reunion. When it was clear that the reunion wasn’t going to happen, Pilson and Lynch began writing songs for the next Lynch Mob record but singer Oni Logan didn’t feel that the songs were right. Brian Tichy laid down some drum tracks and suggested that they should bring in Mick Brown and do a whole album of Dokken covers with guest singers. They did just that and combined some of the Dokken remakes with a number of originals. The result is seven original songs and five remakes (with another seven remakes planned for a Part 2 to be released sometime in 2013, including, according to Lynch, “When Heaven Comes Down,” “Til The Livin’ End” and “Just Got Lucky”). Tichy handles the drums on the originals and “Wild” Mick plays on the remakes. The vocals for the originals and one remake are handled superbly by Pilson while the other four remakes feature an impressive list of guest vocalists. Guests include: Tim “Ripper” Owens, Doug Pinnick, Sebastian Bach, and Robert Mason. Interestingly, Don was actually approached to sing on the remakes but declined.
The album blasts off with one of the best songs on the record, the title track “Slave to the Empire.” It’s one of the originals and kicks the album off right into fourth gear. If there are any doubts that this album will have rockin’ without Dokken, fear no more. The second track “Sweet Unknown” is a moodier, mellower, more modern sounding song. Not bad but definitely different. Other original tracks include “Rhythm of the Soul,” “When Eagles Die,” “Mind Control,” “Jesus Train” and “Access Denied.” “Rhythm of the Soul” is a decent enough mid-tempo song but not terribly memorable. “When Eagles Die” is a little more interesting with a nice acoustic guitar intro that leads into Jeff’s capable singing and then George’s incomparable lead work. Clocking in at over six minutes this is approaching prog territory and seems to be one of the more popular new tracks according to early reviews. It’s definitely one of the highlights. “Mind Control” is another interesting track. It’s a hard driving song with Jeff channeling his inner Lemme on the growling vocals. It features great guitar work and one of the best leads on offer — certainly an enjoyable listen. Probably the most atypical song is “Jesus Train”. This is a cool little bluesy number with all of the guys sounding like they’re having a blast. It starts off with a “Hot For Teacher” like bass pedal rhythm and some stellar guitar work. Dokken it certainly is not, but musically it’s a winner. Finally, the album wraps up with another original song, “Access Denied”. And for those who stuck around long enough to make it to the end of the record, they won’t be disappointed. This is another one of the better originals with lots of double-bass and screaming guitars. It’s nearly seven minutes long and fades out into some string accompaniment that would be right at home on a movie soundtrack, especially a horror film. Nightmare on Elm Street Part 25, perhaps? An impressive end to an impressive album.
What a lot of Dokken fans are going to be most interested in is hearing their new interpretations of the five Dokken classics. They’re all decent but some are naturally better than others. The first one appears as the third track and it’s the band’s namesake “Tooth and Nail” featuring Doug Pinnick of King’s X on lead vocals. Musically, it’s actually a little faster than the original but Doug’s unique vocal style somehow makes it sound slower. It definitely gives this classic song a new twist. George is on fire on this one and there’s an interesting breakdown towards the end that invokes visions of David Lee Roth at his talk-singing best. It’s easily one of the best remakes. Next up is “It’s Not Love” featuring Robert Mason. Musically, it’s not quite as good as the original but the vocals are superb. This song ends up becoming more of a showcase for Robert’s vocals than a reworking of an old classic. After listening to this song, it becomes clear why he was tapped to lead Warrant in their current configuration. “Into the Fire” is the third remake and, like the new songs, features Jeff Pilson on lead vocals. It’s a very faithful remake with maybe a little better guitar-work. This would fall into the “why bother” category. It does feature another unusual breakdown at the end which is interesting but other than that you’re better off sticking with the original. At least it shows how competent Jeff’s chops are. The fourth remake is “Alone Again” with Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach on lead. His unmistakable vocals add an interesting element to this classic and his interpretation is respectful. Finally, we have the most unusual remake with Tim “Ripper” Owens of Judas Priest/Iced Earth/Yngwie Malmsteen fame taking the helm for one of Dokken’s heaviest and best songs, “Kiss of Death”. It’s a true re-working of a song and therefore one of the best remakes on the record. It gives the listener a glimpse of what Dokken may have sounded like if they had been a traditional metal band instead of a more melodic metal “hair” band. Ripper’s Dio-like wails fit right along with George’s monster shreds. This is definitely one of the album’s best tracks.
Will this become a classic? Not likely. It is an enjoyable listen though and will certainly be appreciated by Dokken fans. How much traction it gains outside the Dokken fan-base remains to be seen. Whether or not they should’ve mixed original tunes with remakes also remains to be seen. Had they chosen to go with all originals it would’ve given the project more legitimacy as something more than just a side-project. However, having the classic Dokken tunes remade with guest vocalists will undoubtedly pique more interest so it’s understandable why they did it. But since they plan to release a second installment, a better option may have been to release one record with all originals and the other one with all remakes. Black Country Communion has certainly shown that the rock world is willing to listen to new music by classic musicians so an album of all originals wouldn’t be outrageous.
Although this doesn’t quite live up to the greatness of Dokken at their Tooth and Nail or Under Lock and Key prime, it’s certainly a respectable release with some enjoyable new songs and interesting remakes. It will certainly please die-hard Dokken fans and given them hope that a full-on reunion may someday still come to fruition. But even if it doesn’t, the prospect of seeing these three musicians tour together again is reason enough to get excited. And with a second release planned for the near future, all fans of Dokken just got lucky.
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
“Wild” Mick Brown
1. Slave to the Empire
2. Sweet Unknown
3. Tooth and Nail (featuring Doug Pinnick of King’s X)
4. It’s Not Love (featuring Robert Mason of Warrant)
5. Rhythm of the Soul
6. When Eagles Die
7. Into The Fire
8. Alone Again (featuring Sebastian Bach)
9. Mind Control
10. Kiss of Death (featuring Tim “Ripper” Owens)
11. Jesus Train
12. Access Denied
Label: Rat Pak Records
Hardrock Haven Rating: 8.5/10